CHANTILLY, Va. – History came alive for some Fairfax County students on the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
The students learned firsthand from those World War II veterans who landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 about the battle that was the turning point of the war and helped take back Europe from the Nazis.
Rocky Run Middle School in Chantilly hosted its 14th annual World War II Oral History Day Friday. Jamie Sawatzky, a history teacher at the school, says oral history day was born after a WWII veteran shared his story with Sawatzky’s history class. Sawatzky says each year, it’s grown and now it’s a full-day event.
Veterans come to the school each year on oral history day so the 7th graders can talk to and learn from them, from their eyewitness accounts.
“Honestly, this is the last generation to get the opportunity to interview the greatest generation,” Sawatzky says of WWII vets, who are now in their late 80s and in their 90s now.
Veteran John Bucur, who served in the U.S. army and landed at Normandy two days after the invasion, has taken part in oral history day for the past 10 years. He says he has so much to tell the students but not enough time.
The students spend three days researching and preparing 30 questions for their interview with their veteran. The students are organized into groups. Bucur says the students have definitely done their homework. In fact he says, “They have questions that many times surprise me.”
Each veteran has a student guide for the day. Seventh-grader Matthew Lichtblau was the guide for Bucur. Even though Lichtblau is only 13 years old, he understands why this oral history day is so important.
“To pass on their stories so that when they’re gone they won’t be forgotten,” he says.